The Bantam Rambleneur: Lucky 7

The Bantam, loaded for camping. On the Historic Columbia River Hwy, 15 June 2022. Ricohflex Dia/Kodak Gold 200

On this day back in 2015 I finally received my Bantam Rambleneur custom bicycle. It’s the only bicycle I’ve ever owned that was specifically handmade for me, no other bike in the world is exactly like it. The idea of having a custom bike entered my head in early 2014: I had sold off my Surly Long Haul Trucker and just rode a bunch of fancy Rivendell bikes when I visited their Bay Area HQ. Remembering that Bantam’s Bob K. said he’d give me a frame for a “good deal”, I created my “ideal” bike in my head: roadish but able to tour and go off road, built around beefy 26 inch wheels and disc brakes, and oh yeah: fillet brazed, the most uncommon type of bike frame joinery that you’ll come across.

Even though I got what was essentially my dream bike, it took me a while to embrace the idea of having a custom bike. I kept it set up for more fun rides than day-to-day commuting. When pandemic hit a couple years ago, riding for fun became a bigger deal, so I took the Bantam out more, finally embracing it. Still, it’s the ideal bike for me circa 2013-16, and I’ve changed. It’s still a great bike and I wouldn’t have done anything differently for the most part. But it’s a bike I really like a lot vs. the end-all, be-all bike. I can go long stretches without riding it, but always appreciate the Bantam’s ride when I get back on it.

There was awhile that I thought of getting another custom bike, something more “city” with possibly a five speed hub. But that thought has left me since I got my Brompton last year. I use that bike a lot, what would another custom do? Anyways, besides the Brompton I already have my “ideal city bike”, my Raleigh Superbe. Three bikes is enough for me right now. The only bike I can see getting in the future is a true cargo bike, and that one might have e-assist. But that’s still down the road aways, especially since I’m broke.

The Bantam is due for a little refresh soon. My bar tape is going, so I’ll need to put some new tape on and reshellac it. I should also get around to putting a dual-leg kickstand, especially since the bike has a proper kickstand plate.

There are a few things I wouldn’t mind doing in the coming years. It would be nice to convert the gearing to a 2X10 for more range and lower gears. And I can see repainting at some point. I’m a bit ambivalent about the color (even though I picked it out!) especially since I got another green bike (the Superbe) right after the Bantam. But the biggest reason to change is because the green I selected was also used by Surly. It’s not that I have airs about me. But it is annoying to get a custom bike built up, then have someone see it on the street and assume it’s a Long Haul Trucker because the color matches.

I have thought dropping the drop bars and switching to upright bars, as that’s my preferred handlebar style. But it’d be expensive (I’d have to switch brake levers as well, and possibly shifters) and the geometry of the bike was designed for drops. Besides, I do appreciate the extra hand positions.

Here’s to several more years of my custom bike!

Photos of my Bantam in the dynamic flickr album below.

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